Skip to Main Content

Our News

Bank Partners With Rural Leaders to Foster Capital Investments

Erika in red dress writing on the easel paper

Small towns and rural areas are an important part of the region the Richmond Fed serves, and earlier this month the Bank’s Community Development team met with rural leaders to solidify a plan that can help more of these communities obtain the capital investment they need to thrive.

The team hosted a November 1–2 retreat in Charlotte, North Carolina, to facilitate next steps for the Bank’s Rural Investment Collaborative. This initiative aims to help communities develop successful project proposals. The program also helps potential funders assess how they can streamline their processes and provide small towns and rural communities with easier access to capital.

Members of the Rural Investment Collaborative’s steering group and project development workgroup have been working for more than a year with the Community Development team to advance this effort. During the retreat, they refined their plan for 2024.

Jason and external partner at the table collaborating

“The Richmond Fed could not do this work alone,” said Jason Smith, the Bank’s Senior Community Development Advisor and leader of the Rural Investment Collaborative. “Rural leaders and their organizations have been central to designing an initiative that will support community leaders in developing their local project proposals.”

The Collaborative’s first big project is the Community Investment Training program, set to launch in January 2024. This 12-week effort will provide rural leaders with guidance on how to produce investment-ready project proposals. The steering group (which does not include Richmond Fed staff) selected an inaugural cohort of 18 local leaders, who will be announced in January.

After selecting the cohort, one of the steering group members commented: “The Fed is doing a good job leading the Rural Investment Collaborative with rural communities instead of doing it to them.”

Smith shared their excitement: “All of the work over the last year came to life during our retreat as the steering group reviewed applications that described a wide range of local projects and selected participants for the Community Investment Training.”

Among the goals the Collaborative team members have agreed to for the coming year are to share best practices that rural regions can adopt to pool investments from different sources. They also discussed plans to routinely inform rural communities about ways to finance community projects, including through using matching funds, recoverable grants, forgivable loans and loan guarantees that reduce risk for traditional lenders.

“We look forward to sharing the solutions local leaders will develop as a result of the Community Investment Training,” Smith said. “Helping these communities be ready to absorb capital is an important part of the puzzle, and the work the Rural Investment Collaborative will do in 2024 to make sure capital providers are ready to invest will be just as important.”

Collaborative team members are also exploring ways to assist rural communities long-term — in particular through the rural leaders who complete the training. Workgroup members expressed an interest in developing a mentoring or coaching structure for this group. They also would like to develop formal pathways for connecting alumni of the training with providers of capital.

Richmond Fed staff, rural center leaders from across the state and other partners in the Bank’s Fifth District territory (Virginia, Maryland, North Carolina, South Carolina, Washington, D.C., and parts of West Virginia) continue to receive positive feedback and helpful input from rural leaders about the Collaborative’s approach. Communities are eager to apply for the next cohort of Community Investment Training (which will take place in 2025), and rural-serving organizations are considering ways to contribute to the initiative.

“We are just getting started,” Smith said. “As more partners identify how they want to align their contributions, the positive impact for rural communities will increase. The Richmond Fed’s Community Development team is really grateful for all we have learned from our rural partners, and we look forward to seeing how our work together will help strengthen the economies of our small towns and rural communities.”

For more information about the Rural Investment Collaborative and its Community Investment Training, contact the Bank’s Community Development team.

Subscribe to News

Receive an email notification when News is posted online:

Subscribe to News

By submitting this form you agree to the Bank's Terms & Conditions and Privacy Notice.

Phone Icon Contact Us

Jim Strader (804) 697-8956 (804) 332-0207 (mobile)